Qualidea Code – Episode 1 [Surviving World Gloria] [First Impression]

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In this original series, the world is at war with creatures called Unknown. When the Unknown first launched an attack on Japan, the land was devastated and children were put into a cold-sleep. When they awoke several decades later they discovered they had inherited supernatural powers. It seems like there are adults who are still around, but they are few and far in between, at least in this first episode. The gifted children set up defense fortresses in three Japanese cities: Tokyo, Kanagawa, and Chiba. Students from these three cities fight together against the Unknown.

… At least, they’re supposed to. Cold, hot-headed Ichiya Suzaku is convinced that he is the only person needed to fight the Unknown. And once you see how large these battles get, you see that that’s a bullshit idea. His friend/”big sister” Canaria Utara is always by his side, and together they are the head and subhead for Tokyo. Maihime Tenkawa, a silver-haired girl who likes to wear a uniform jacket over her shoulders, and Hotaru Rindo are the respective head and subhead of vlcsnap-00025Kanagawa City. The other duo in this Tri-city trifecta are Kasumi Chigusa, subhead of Chiba City, and Asuha Chigusa, his younger sister who is Chiba’s head. All three representative duos report to Airi Yunami and Gutoku Asanagi, Regional Management Officers who help coordinate all the students and their attacks. Gutoku is also shown to be in charge of assigning and removing points, which are currency for the ranking system which all students participate in. Ichiya is listed at #4, while his rival Kasumi is #207; Ichiya is very protective of his ranking, while Kasumi couldn’t care less about his.

So at the beginning of the episode there is a small Unknown attack, but Ichiya heads out and destroys all the creatures on his own without waiting for Canaria or any of the other students to arrive. He says repeatedly “I am all we need,” but in continuing to shirk his teammates he is costing himself ranking points, nevermind the interpersonal damage he is causing between himself and his peers.

After the first battle Ichiya and Canaria must hurry to the Tri-City meeting. Afterwards Ichiya and Canaria have a quiet moment together, where Ichiya names their powers (dubbed “World”) and Canaria shares some of her singing. Ichiya remembers the war from before he was put into cold sleep, when he was initially younger than Canaria; he says that they are both the same age now though, so she must have been left sleeping longer than him. Ichiya has no respect for students younger than him, but he very much respects adults, and this is because the adults protected the children during the first onset of the war.

Suddenly there is a warning of another Unknown attack, but this time the battle scale is much larger. Ichiya arrogantly decides not to wait for the other students and instead drops off the side of a building with Canaria, using his gravity manipulation World to fly them to the battleground. Ironically this takes longer and they are the last two to arrive, behind both the Kanagawa and Chiba students.

The battle goes well, with all the students making gains against the unknown, but Ichiya stepping onto Chiba’s toes starts the infighting between the three bodies of students. As Hotaru points out to Maihime, this is most likely because of the ranking system. Everyone wants to get to a higher ranking, so easier battles like this one are fertile ground for competition and kill-stealing. This upsets Maihime, because she fights for everyone and hadn’t thought even for a moment of being competitive – and she’s ranked at #1.vlcsnap-00034

In the end it’s Maihime’s super mega energy sword attack which ends the battle, but also accidentally destroys the Aqua Line in the process. Hotaru amd Kasumi blame its destruction on Ichiya, but their whole group ends up in trouble in Gutoku’s book.

As everyone starts to depart for home, a bird is shown flying overhead… before it disappears beyond what looks like the same barrier the Unknown came out of?!

My thoughts: The animation’s pretty smooth and I like the music. Ichiya’s a dick but some of his comments are pretty hilarious. I can’t tell if he and Canaria are just friends or if they’re actually siblings. Their relationship seems simple, but hushed comments from Ichiya hint that there may be some feelings running a bit deeper which will be explored later.

I definitely want to learn more about the Unknown and where they come from, and more about that tease regarding the bird passing through the barrier at the very end of the episode.

For an original series, this seems to be pretty decent. I’ll stick with Qualidea Code for at least three episodes. (??-)

Possibility of Watching: Moderate
Possibility of Blogging: Moderate

Nejimaki Seirei Senki: Tenkyou no Alderamin – Episode 1 [A Stormy Encounter] [First Impression]

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Year 905 on the Imperial Calendar is the year that Ikta Solork, a lazy young man who is also a “defeatist”, became known as the “Invincible Lazy General.” That is the premise of this show; somewhat generic, no? However I’m a sucker for good animation, so I figured I’d give this title a try.

Ikta and his close female friend, Yatorishino Igsem, are heading together for an exam being held on an island. The exam is, as far as I can tell, to become some kind of military officer. Yatori, as she prefers to be called, is a smart young woman who is shown to be informed on military affairs. Ikta is her exact opposite, and it is initially something of a mystery why they are such good friends.

Everyone in this world, or at least our main cast, has a chibi elemental spirit who is apparently with them at all times. For example Ikta’s is Kus, who has light abilities. Some people even have little pouches on their belts for the spirits to stay in. I do not yet now how they get these spirits, or when.

After a bumpy departure with some of their peers, Yatori and Ikta board the ship and leave. En route to the exam they meet some of the other students who will be taking the exam with them. Ikta is not happy to be taking the exam; he mentions that this is the last time he will have anything to do with the military. Those vlcsnap-00007words will come back to haunt him later.

It turns out the other people sharing their cabin are a young lavender-haired girl named Haroma (Haro) Becker, a slightly chubby guy named Matthew Tetdrich, and a green-haired guy named Torway Remeon. Yatori and Torway are both from powerful and important families, and are considered to be rivals, including in the upcoming exam. Matthew comes from a family with a military history but their surname is still not well-known to many people. Ikta seems to be the exception in this group of achievement, a commoner with no distinguishing background or family history. In addition, Ikta, Yatori and Matthew all went to school together, so the three are quite comfortable around each other.

There is one incident in which an additional passenger is revealed to be on board, possibly a civilian, but she runs off before any information can be gathered from her. She’s a little blonde girl, so it’s highly unlikely she’s a student too, but who is she?

Later in the voyage, the seas get rough and there is a lot of turbulence. At some point the ship takes some damage and starts to flood, so everyone rushes to the lifeboats. Once Ikta’s boat makes it to the sea, they spot the blonde girl from earlier trying to climb into a lifeboat, but she slips as the ship starts to tilt and she falls into the ocean. Ikta takes his shirt off and, with Yatori holding onto a tether, dives in to save the little girl.

She wakes up later and we see Ikta’s group has survived. They have washed up on an unknown location and are drying off in a cave. Ikta and Torway are out scouting their surroundings and they discover that they’ve washed up in enemy territory! They are at the border of the Kioka Republic’s lands. Which means that their situation got even more precarious because their little blonde companion is revealed to be Princess Chamille, and she, Yatori and Torway have enough importance that they can be used as bargaining chips if they’re caught. So what to do?

vlcsnap-00032As the sun starts to set, their group has not come to a decision on whether to surrender and become prisoners of war, or try to sneak through Kioka’s borders. Princess Chamille makes her way to Ikta, who shows her the hammock he’s making out of tree fronds. Suddenly a blimp passes overhead and Ikta rushes the two of them into hiding. It’s the Kioka Republic’s new air unit, a blimp which is also a military weapon. Ikta leads the princess back to their cave.

In the middle of the night she wakes up to go use the washroom secretly, but she is heard by Kioka troops and is almost discovered except for Yatori and Ikta, who wake up and see that she’s missing. The Princess is about to surrender from her hiding spot except Ikta shows up and lets himself be found first.

My thoughts: Ikta is quite the character. In addition to being lazy, he’s a smartass who flirts with the ladies and tries to scare away guys he deems to be romantic competition. Yet at the same time he’s also clearly very smart when it comes to things like military strategy, and Yatori holds his honest opinion in high regard.

The flashback at the very beginning of the episode piques my curiousity. It shows what I’m assuming is Yatori and Ikta’s first meeting, and I hope we see more later about how and why they became friends.

I’ve said in previous reviews that I’m a graphics and animation whore, and Tenkyou no Alderamin pretty much solidifies that. Despite the unimpressive summary, the animation, which evokes the Escaflowne movie (2002) for me, is the sole reason why I’m giving this show a try. And it is a very pretty show indeed. The opening theme is pretty awesome too.

So far I’m impressed, but this show is being produced by Madhouse and it’s clear that they’re putting a lot of effort into this title, so my expectations are pretty high. I’m covering several other shows right now, but as long as I remains satisfied with Tenkyou no Alderamin, I can’t see why I won’t be keeping this one on my list.

Possibility of Watching: High
Possibility of Blogging: High

Fudanshi Koukou Seikatsu – Episode 1 [The Daily Life of a Fudanshi High School Student] [First Impression]

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Here we have Fudanshi Koukou Seikatsu, aka the show filling my anime short quota for the summer season. xD The short is about 5 minutes long, and centres around a high school student named Ryo Sakaguchi, aka “Gucchi”, who is a fudanshi. The term “fudanshi” is a play on the slang “fujoshi”, and is used for guys who like boys love (BL) stories.

Needless to say, it’s considered very unusual that a young man likes BL manga, and it often leads to speculation about his sexuality, much to Ryo’s frustration and the viewer’s as well. Obviously our interests are not indicative of our sexual orientation, but this ignorance is something Ryo must deal with.

The first half of the short centres on Ryo’s attempt to buy a fudanshi manga from a bookstore he doesn’t usually frequent. A young woman looks like she will be the person to check him out at the register, but at the last moment she is replaced by her male coworker, and so Ryo must suffer the stigma of being caught reading something that vlcsnap-00004guys his age don’t usually publicly get caught reading. Ryo says that he reads BL stories because he’s admiring the happiness of the characters in the stories; he’s still very much straight.

The second half of the short is Sakaguchi relaying this incident to his friend Toshiaki Nakamura, who also thought that Ryo was interested in men. Toshiaki asks to see Ryo’s SNS account (something like Twitter), and is annoyed to find that Ryo tweeted something private Toshiaki had previously told him in confidance. Toshiaki grabs Ryo by his lapels and tells him not to spill his life online without his knowledge. Ryo tells Toshiaki that his dream is to have more fudanshi friends, but he has a hard time finding any on SNS because girls think he’s female and not a dude.

There’s no opening theme, although this is only the first episode so I don’t know if this will be a permanent feature or if it was just left off for the pilot. The ending theme is a cute but short song about “boy meets boy.”

In an industry where many, many shows are near carbon copies of each other, Fudanshi Koukou Seikatsu is something different in the sea of similarity. I’m really interested in seeing if this show will combat some of the stigmas hinted at in this first episode. Will people ever accept Ryo for reading BL stories? Will he finally just stop giving a shit about what others think of his hobby? Why is considered creepy that he likes BL manga? I look forward to psychoanalyzing this show, at least for the first three episodes.

Possibility of Watching: Moderate
Possibility of Blogging: Moderate

Berserk (2016) – Episode 1 [The Branded Swordsman] [First Impression]

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If you’ve never read the manga, seen the original 1997 TV series, or watched the trio of Berserk movies, here are a couple of things you should know before starting to watch Berserk (2016).

First some backstory. In events covered in the original TV series, and summarized in the trio of Golden Age Arc films, Guts was a swordsman who was originally part of a group of mercenaries called the Band of the Hawk. His closest comrades were a silver-haired man named Griffith and a young woman named Casca. Guts fought alongside them and the rest of the Hawks for three years before departing on his own, causing Griffith to become slightly unstable at the loss of his best friend. After seducing the king’s teenage daughter and being busted for it, Griffith ended up thrown in jail, where he was tortured beyond belief and psychologically broken.

One year later Guts returned and he, alongside Casca and the rest of the Band of the Hawk, rescued Griffith from jail. However in his pitiful state Griffith activated the red Behelit necklace around his neck, which triggered an Eclipse and summoned a quartet of evil supernatural beings called the God Hand. The God Hand convinced Griffith to join their ranks; all he had to do was sacrifice his former comrades. Which he did, and a horrific gory slaughter ensued.

vlcsnap-00014Guts and Casca managed to survive, but they were permanently branded with marks which summoned powerful and dangerous spirits to them at night. Casca, as a result of being violated by Griffith (who was reborn as the God Hand Femto during the Eclipse ceremony) became mute and an amnesiac. Guts himself was left scarred and missing both an eye and half an arm. After the Eclipse Guts left Casca in the care of an old man named Godo, and a younger man named Rickert (one of the other Eclipse survivors) while he traveled alone, searching for the God Hand and Griffith so he could get his revenge. This is where this season begins, several years after Guts began his solo journey.

The second thing you should know is that this series is extremely violent and gory. Case in point: the opening shot of this first episode is of a lake of blood, with crows picking at the innards of all the rotting corpses lying dismembered in said blood. Furthermore if you’ve decided to watch the original TV series/movies, be forewarned there is rape along with some graphic sex. I will add [trigger warning] in my reviews as I feel it might be warranted, but be aware before watching that this anime is basically violence personified. >>;

Also, for once I actually have read the manga before reviewing a show, so I will try to take care to not accidentally post spoilers from later in the series.

Alright, onto the actual review!

As the first episode unfolds, a little elf sprite is being harassed by a group of men. And by “harassed” I mean he’s nailed to the wall by a length of rope while a man throws knives at him. We see a ginger youth struggling to keep up with all the demands for food and ale from these men he’s traveling with. When the kid eventually pushes back against his companions who are picking on the elf, he’s beaten up.

This is when Guts lumbers into the tavern. He quickly defeats the thugs, saving both the elf and the kid, then pays for some rations and leaves. Later that night the elf catches up with Guts while he’s eating a rabbit he killed and introduces himself as Puck. Guts is less than thrilled that this chatty little sprite appears to want to be friends, and his rudeness is what eventually causes Puck to leave.

Elsewhere in the forest, we see that the unnamed kid from the tavern has managed to escape. He’s looking for Guts, but he’s gotten himself lost.

Later that night it starts to rain, and a traveling wagon stops next to Guts to offer him a ride. They’re a monk named Adolph and his young daughter Collette; once Guts reluctantly accepts their offer of help, he sees that Puck is traveling with them too. After Guts falls asleep, he has a nightmare about the events of the Eclipse and all of the horrors he saw, and he awakens only to immediately kill an incubus which was feeding on the terror spawning from his nightmare.vlcsnap-00033

Their group is forced to stop when Guts says other evil creatures are on their way. Guts arms himself and stands outside the wagon, waiting patiently. He is not quick enough however to prevent Collette’s death, nor her father’s a short while later after her corpse reanimates and kills Adolph. Guts is so shocked that Collete’s corpse manages to land a blow to his abdomen, but he instinctively reacts by slashing her body in half with his massive sword. He resumes killing the skeletons surrounding them, but after their bones have been scattered, his brief rest is interrupted by a hellish tree monster which has already eaten the bandits who had been chasing him since the events at the tavern earlier.

Guts is imprisoned by the tree creature, but as he sees the monster about to eat the top half of Collette’s body, he enters the beginning stage of his “berserk mode” and is able to fight back and kill the creature.

After the battles, Puck expresses remorse for what happened to Collette and Adolph, but Guts coldly says that it was their own fault for being weak and traveling with him. And this is his mindset throughout the series: essentially only the strong survive, and if the weak are not strong enough to protect themselves, then they will die and that’s all there is to it. Guts would not be able to survive if he worried about every weak person who crossed his path and died, so this is how he rationalizes his actions and their deaths.

As he leaves Puck behind him, Guts can hear the voices of the God Hand in his head. The brand on his neck is their tie to him, after all. Guts launches a shot from his mechanical arm into the air and their voices disperse. Guts walks away, with Puck trailing behind him.

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My thoughts: I am SO EXCITED that I’m getting to cover this show. I’m a late fan to the series, but despite all the blood and violence it remains one of my favourites. Why? I don’t watch for the battles, but for the characters and the events which happen in between all the fighting essentially, and some of the philosophies behind Berserk too. It’s been a few years since the last Golden Age Arc movie came out (2013 in Japan), and I’m glad we have some new material that will be animating storylines from the manga which were never covered in the original series. (The manga is 300+ chapters too, which leaves lots of room for future seasons too~ )

I was thrilled to learn that Susumu Hirasawa, one of the composers from the 1997 TV series and the movie trilogy, would be contributing an insert song to this new series. The battle themes and music strike me as classic Berserk, but with a new amped up rock vibe added. This is not necessarily a bad thing; rather it merely reminds me that it has been almost 20 years since the original Berserk anime aired and so some things are bound to have changed. That being said, I love both the opening and ending themes (“Inferno” by 9mm Parabellum Bullet and “Meimoku no Kanata” by Nagi Yanagi, respectively), and Hirasawa-san’s “Hai Yo” is pretty fantastic too.

The voice-acting is spot on in my book, with the primary voice cast from the Golden Age Arc films returning for this new series to reprise their roles.

vlcsnap-00025My only complaint about this new series is the style of animation being used. While I’m not going to attempt to guess the style, it reminds me of the CG used for the Golden Age Arc films, and I struggled with it even back then. The difference between the films’ animation and Berserk (2016) is that the latter looks like a “hand drawn” effect was added overtop the CG animation. This style works better for some scenes than others (ie closeups versus battles). Also, I personally feel that this newer CG style makes the battle scenes a little more difficult to track all of the movements and action going on. However it’s not the worst that I’ve ever seen, and I’m sure this animation style will grow on me in time (especially since this show will be two cours!! *excited dance*).

What I think I’m most pleased with so far is the portrayal of Guts. This is a man who’s lost his best friend, his lover and the extended family he surrounded himself with for years, not to mention that he was left physically, psychologically and emotionally scarred by the events of the Eclipse as well. As weird as it might sound, I’m really psyched to see how the cold looks and savage fury on his face convey this madness inside him when he fights.

Next episode it looks like we’ll be introduced to at least one of several unnamed characters from this episode, namely the blonde military woman from the opening seconds of this first episode. Who are her companions, and what do they want with Guts?

In honor of this new Berserk series, and because I am a new fan of Hirasawa-san’s music, each week I will end my review with a link to one of his songs, or some music from Berserk. This week I’m choosing “Forces”, the insert song from the original 1997 anime which was played during the preview of the next episode. It’s also my all-time favourite Berserk track. Enjoy! [Lyrics]

Possibility of Watching: Guaranteed
Possibility of Blogging: Guaranteed

Uchuu Patrol Luluco – Episodes 12 & 13 [Final Impression]

Episode 12

The newly resurrected Luluco is under attack by the Blackholeian’s minions, when suddenly Lalaco and her pirate crew emerge from a portal and block the bullets aimed at Luluco. Lalaco had been returning for Luluco’s funeral but was surprised to see her daughter had already been brought back to life. Luluco explains the situation and asks her mother for a favor; Lalaco gives her daughter her space ship and tells her to go confess to Nova. Luluco is locked onto the bow of the pirate ship and without further ado the ship takes off for Nova’s location. Lalaco, Midori, Chief Over-Justicvlcsnap-00006e and even Luluco’s reawakened father Keiji all morph into their gun forms and start shooting at all of the Blackholeian guns.

Luluco finds Nova and she finally confesses to him. She offers her heart to him, then tells him she’s placing him under arrest. Nova is shocked by Luluco’s confession, although he still doesn’t hesitate to take her Aflutter Jewel again. The Blackholeian arrives and smashes it to the ground, but Luluco produces a new one again and again, until she’s firing a steady stream of them in Nova’s direction. She tells the Blackholeian that they her feelings for Nova and that they will never die. As Nova is encompassed in this jetstream of love and memories from Luluco, he develops the capacity to feel and reciprocates Luluco’s feelings by falling in love with her on the spot. He even has a jewel of his own now!

The Blackholeian is enraged and directs an attack at Luluco, but Nova steps in front of her to protect her. He tells the Bolackholeian that he’s just a “normal Nova” now and that he’s just fallen in love with Luluco. Yay for middleschool love!

The Blackholeian gets even angrier and he levels up to his final form. Nova reassures a panicking Luluco that they can defeat him together. Hand in hand, they tell the Blackholeian that he’s under arrest for super space shoplifting.


Episode 13

As Luluco and Nova fight the evil Blackholeian together, Lalaco, Keiji and the others are watching from in the background. Nova’s jewel is called a Pitter Patter Stone, and when it merges with Luluco’s Aflutter Jewel it becomes a Lovey-Dovey Diamond. *facepalm* SO sappy~

However the Blackholeian has a trick up his sleeve: he activates the micro blackhole he installed in Nova’s forehead. It grows in size, slowly enveloping Nova’s body. Luluco “pulls the trigger” as Lalaco says, and starts absorbing the pink aura which had been floating around in space, increasing her powers immensely. Apparently these new powers of Luluco’s give her the ability to patrol across different dimensions of space.

vlcsnap-00002The Lovey-Dovey Diamond morphs into a new crystallized arm with a gun in the hand, and Luluco fires it at the evil Blackholeian again and again. When the bullets lodge in his body they turn to crystal, blocking the black holes which give him his power. But he still has enough power to smash Luluco between his two powerful hands, and her friends and family can’t get close enough to help.

Just when she feels like this might be the end for her, Nova’s disintegrating form appears to her and tells her to use him as a weapon. Nova says he can’t stay in their current dimension, but if Luluco fires him at the Blackholeian as a bullet, the two black holes will cancel each other out and both will disappear. Luluco asks what the point of them meeting was if he knew they were destined from the beginning to part, and Nova cheerily replies it’s so that they can meet again.

With that, Luluco knows she must follow Nova’s suggestion. She fires Nova’s Justice gun at the Blackholeian and together the two are sucked into another dimension. Once the Blackholeian disappears, all his minions transform back into regular people. Lalaco wastes no time disappearing, but Keiji is there to support his daughter and give her some words of support. Slowly the shoplifted Ogikubos drift back into the universe, heading for their homes.

Back at Luluco’s Ogikubo, life resumes as normal. Except now Chief Over Justice is the new Commander-in-Chief, and Midori has been promoted to his former rank of Chief of the Ogikubo branch. A widescreen appears behind father and daughter in their home, and they see that Lalaco’s up to no good again. Speaking of which, their home is now a spaceship, not a cramped apartment in Ogikubo. It looks like both Midori and Luluco have stopped going to school too.

Keiji leaves in their spaceship to chase after Lalaco, and Luluco leaves on her own space rider to do her own thing. She has a new nickname too: Miss Trigger (haha).

My thoughts: Luluco’s parents’ reactions to her confession to Nova were pretty funny. Luluco’s father is the stereotypical protective father, pointing out that his daughter is thirteen and too young to be getting involved with guys yet. Lalaco takes the stance that her daughter is growing up into a young woman (although I hate to pin that label onto a thirteen year old >>; ) and can make her own decisions.

I think these two episodes were my favourite. It was a sappy yet bittersweet ending to a show I wasn’t even sure I was going to stick with, but I’m glad I did because it ended up being more than I had anticipated. But poor Luluco~~ ;~;


Final Impression: Ugh, the ending to this show. ;~; *tries to tape her broken heart back together* Goddamn bittersweet endings. I was so happy Luluco got her wish, and was caught so off guard when it was taken away from her.

Story: Not as shallow as I had originally thought. One of the main themes of this show is that Luluco spends so much time and effort trying to be normal, but in the end after Nova leaves, she gives up and accepts that her life as part of Space Patrol will never be normal.

As with Hundred, the focus of the storyline changed too. It was initially about rescuing her father, then became about dealing with her mother, stealing back Ogikubo, and lastly trying to confess to Nova plus the whole faceoff with the Blackholeian. I appreciate series which aren’t one or two-note because it makes them much more interesting to watch. For a show that’s only about five minutes long once you remove the opening and ending themes, I was pretty impressed.

Characters: Kinda meh for me. I was right about Nova being a little suspicious, but he and Luluco grew on me. Midori was probably my favourite character as I feel she had the most personality, and it didn’t hurt that she has the same seiyuu as Haruko from FLCL. Luluco’s parents were alright, but I wasn’t a huge fan of Chief Over Justice or his silent assistant.

Music & Animation: Probably the weakest elements of the series for me were the music and animation. I wasn’t a big fan of either the opening or ending theme, and five minutes doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for other tracks. The animation itself was solid, but I’m not a fan of the wild-crazy-all-over-the-map style of this show. It often made it a little difficult for me to track what was going on, especially when the action really got going and shots were firing everywhere. Nothing wrong with it, it’s just not to my liking.

Overall Thoughts: As I mentioned, I ended up enjoying this show a lot more than I thought I would. The characters and the zany animation grew on me like a fungus until I caved and just went with the flow. If you’re a fan of other Trigger works then I recommend watching Uchuu Patrol Luluco, especially if you’re the type who likes looking for easter eggs.

Final Score: 8/10

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Hundred – Episode 12 [Friends] [Final Impression]

Vitaly and her Hunters are making speedy progress through the innards of Little Garden. They are of course heading for where LiZA is being contained in her coccoon, in Sector 11. En route one of the Hunters is fried by an electrical trap, but Vitaly shows no mercy. Mei-Mai shows up while Vitaly’s torturing them with her sound device and starts shooting at her, so Vitaly runs off alone while Mei-Mai stays behind with the Hunter trio.

Vitaly reaches LiZA at last, and Judar is waiting for her. Vitaly’s master plan is finally revealed: she wants revenge on Judar for abandoning her after they were intimate. Killing LiZA will hurt Judar and all of Little Garden. But first she wants to torture the Slayers a little.

Up on deck, the Replicants start to emit very high-pitched soundwave attacks. Anyone with the Slayer virus in their body is affected, rendering them all but
vlcsnap-00008unable to move, leaving them as easy prey for the Replicants. With Vitaly on the inside and the Slayers helpless on the outside, Vitaly is confident that Little Garden will soon fall.

Judar, however, is not swayed in the slightest. He smoothly offers Vitaly an out, saying that he wants to be with her again, but Vitaly does not fall for his ploy. She shoots madly at Judar, but none of her bullets hit him. And now LiZA is awake! Judar in turn reveals his plans to her: he wanted LiZA awake (presumably to protect Little Garden from Vitaly), and has been making calculations since the beginning of the series, putting everyone and even Little Garden itself at risk in order to see it happen. Vitaly shoots at Judar again, but his bullets are blocked by LiZA’s spirit. Judar fires one bullet at Vitaly and hits her. Judar holds Vitaly as she dies in his arms, and ironically it’s the only time during the series where he doesn’t look like a cold, calculating jackass. After Vitaly dies, Judar tells LiZA she can rest again, but she defies him saying she has something she must do.

Hayato and Emilia are still struggling with the Slayers, and in the stadium, Sakura and Karen are still affected by the sound attack too. Then LiZA appears to them, and tells the two singers that their song will nullify the Replicants’ attack. Before LiZA leaves she kisses Karen on her forehead, eradicating her illness and giving her back the ability to stand and walk again. The concert is back on! All Slayers are back in action!

Hayato decides to go all out, pushing his power to its limit in order to take out the biggest Replicant of all, the Trenta-class. He smashes it through the barrier, but now he’s done for the rest of the battle. Furthermore his plan backfires when the massive Replicant begins to move and attack again from inside Little Garden.

The Hunters suddenly appear, fighting the Trenta-class Replicant in order to protect Little Garden from Vitaly. Nakri is quickly knocked out, so Krovanh starts going berserk on the Replicant. Claire leaves the command office, prepared to kill the Trenta-class if she has to. But before she arrives, Nesat activates her Trace On ability, merging with the Replicant to become a human-Savage hybrid. She kills the original Replicant easily, but now she’s in danger of exploding from her overwhelming power like LiZA was. Char comes over the com system to tell Claire that Nesat must be stopped, or else she’ll destroy Little Garden and everyone on it.

vlcsnap-00025In his subconscious, LiZA comes to Hayato and tells him that he must save Nesat, Little Garden, and Claire. She gives him a gentle kiss before fading away. Hayato awakens and asks Claire to wait until he’s had a chance to try to save Nesat. Claire reluctantly obeys, but tells him she will step in if the situation looks like it will get out of control.

Hayato tries to persuade Nesat to calm down, to let go of her pain and believe in him and the others. He tells her that she’s free and that Vitaly won’t control her anymore. He tells her that she can believe if anyone she wants, and that no one on Little Garden will betray her. But as Nesat starts to lose control, Hayato launches one final attack at her and enters her mind. He repeats that she needs to believe in him, and reaffirms that she can trust him. They’re friends after all, right? Nesat takes his hand, and her self-destruction is halted.

After the battle, LiZA’s spirit appears to Claire and thanks her for protecting Little Garden. Later that evening there is a celebration complete with fireworks. Emilia and Hayato are talking privately, and Emilia says that her wish is to be with Hayato. They kiss, and Hayato says that he wants to be with Emilia too. They kiss a second time, and that’s when the rest of the harem shows up, shocked because it appears to them that Hayato and Emilia are two guys kissing. (I have my own thoughts on homophobia in anime, but that’s a lengthy discussion for another time.) After Claudia’s outburst, Emilia is forced to confess that she is not a guy, but actually a female princess. Then Claire shows up with her massive Hundred gun, and aims a blast directly at Hayato and Emilia!

My thoughts: What a great final episode. I was a little surprised at Vitaly’s death so early in the episode; I had thought up until now that she would be the final villain. That Nesat ended up being the final enemy was a neat surprise twist.

I wish we had gotten to see more of LiZA, as I was really interested in her backstory and how her abilities power Little Garden. Also, did Judar really only want LiZA to awaken because he wanted to her use as a defense against Vitaly’s revenge? :/ What a jerkface.

Lastly, is this finale one of the few times the male lead in a harem actually makes a decision regarding his personal life?? *gives Hayato a trophy*



Final Impression:
For an ecchi harem, I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed this show. It was evident early in the season that I was going to like Hundred more than Saijaku Muhai no Bahamut from last season, but I didn’t think the differences would be so striking.

Overall, I can think of no major complaint against Hundred. From start to finish I feel like this is a solid show, even after the ecchi and fanservice is removed.

Story: The main villain of this series is kept hidden until almost the halfway point. Instead, the Hunters are portrayed as the initial enemy, while Vitaly’s name is only casually mentioned throughout the first half, and it’s not until the Hunters are subdued that she emerges as the actual baddie.

Because this is a harem, each member of the harem came with their own subplot, and I felt like the show wove them all together pretty smoothly. For example Sakura’s was her singing, her Hundred, and her shared past with Karen and Hayato. Claire’s subplot came with LiZA, Little Garden, and Judar, the latter of which also linked him to Vitaly. And Emilia’s schtick was that her past was tied to Hayato’s, because the incident at Gudenburg was how they both became Slayers.hundred poster

What I’m trying to put in a nutshell is that there was a lot of content, lots going on, and it never felt like the plot was just plodding onwards with one goal in mind. Everyone was always working towards their own goals, there was just some fanservice thrown in along the way. The pacing of this show was also pretty fantastic.

Characters: I think the characters are what make this series go the extra mile in my mind. While some were a little one-dimensional, virtually all of them experienced some kind of character growth or development. And the ones that didn’t at least had something going for them which made them tolerable. An example of the aforementioned would be Claudia – she’s always freaking out about Hayato’s relationship with Emilia, but her verbal sparring with him and extreme reactions at least make her funny to watch.

Something I also want to note: I know this is only the second ecchi harem I’ve watched, so I have little to compare it to, but unlike Saijaku Muhai no Bahamut the fanservice actually applied to both genders in Hundred. Yeah Claire got naked a lot, but we got to see Fritz in a Speedo. And breasts jiggled all over the place, but Hayato had a very nice, form-fitting variable suit. I think there could have been more fanservice aimed at people who are attracted to guys, but I’ll take what I can get.

Also unlike other series I’ve seen, there were no characters I wanted to flat out strangle (Lisha from Saijaku Muhai no Bahamut and Mari from Nijiiro Days come to mind), which is always a bonus. Everyone in Hundred was likeable to at least some degree. And yay for the Emilia x Hayato ship being canon!

Music & Animation: Pretty stellar. I wasn’t a huge fan of the opening theme, but I liked most of the ending themes. The animation was strong, no major derpy moments that I can think of at the moment. I don’t know the names of some of the songs that Sakura and/or Karen sang throughout the series, but those were very pleasing to my ears and I’m thinking of trying to track them down.

Overall Thoughts: Even without the fanservice, Hundred stands strong as a sci-fi show about monsters, technology, and dare I say it, love. If you don’t mind seeing lots of bare skin and bouncing breasts, I would recommend giving this show a watch.

Final Score: 10/10

[Manga Mondays] Saiunkoku Monogatari

saiunkoku english manga vol. 1Title: Saiunkoku Monogatari (The Story of Saiunkoku; The Tale of the Kingdom of Colored Clouds)
Author: Sai Yukino (story); Kairi Yura (art)
Genres: Romance, Drama, Historical, Political, Comedy, Reverse Harem
Published: 2003 – 2011 (LN); 2005 – 2012 (manga)
Volumes: 18 (LN – complete); 9 (manga – defunct)
Japanese Publisher: Monthly Asuka (magazine); Kadokawa Shoten (tankobon format)
English Publisher: Viz Media (albeit rights have now been transferred to Yen Press)
Available to Purchase in English?: Yes (Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Indigo)

[Note: This post contains mild spoilers]

Finally, for those of you who’ve been wondering about my repeated references to this series, I’m going to explain to you why I love SaiMono so much.

But first a quick explanation for all the parentheses in the summary. Saiunkoku Monogatari is something of an incomplete series. In Japan, there are the light novels (x 18, plus four volumes of side stories), two seasons of anime, and nine manga. However in North America, fans have access to… one season of anime and the manga. -_- Furthermore assuming that it was due to declining sales and interest in the series, only the nine volumes of manga were ever created, leaving the equivalent of the second half of the first season and all of the second of the anime untold in manga format. So basically if you can’t read Japanese fluently and aren’t able to import the light novels, as a fan you’re hooped when it comes to reading the full story yourself.

Also in my review of A Bride’s Story, I mentioned that it narrowly beat out Saiunkoku Monogatari as my favourite series, but in retrospect I think I meant that more in terms of the artwork. Both series are gorgeous, however overall I think I prefer the story of SaiMono. It’s very close though!

Alright, onward to the meat of my review.

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Saiunkoku Monogatari
centers around a sixteen year old girl named Shuurei Kou (as in the original Japanese media). She is from one of the eight noble families of Saiukoku, but her immediate family has little money and so she and her family’s retainer, Seiran Shi, have to work assorted odd jobs in order to help her father make ends meet. Shuurei’s father found Seiran abandoned one night when he was young and Shuurei was still small, so he works for Shuurei’s father in an effort to repay the kindness shown to him. Shuurei’s father Shouka works in the Imperial Archives but makes little money, and Shuurei’s mother passed away when Shuurei was little, so her family has few options left when it comes to surviving short of begging their relatives for money.

At the beginning of the series, Shuurei is approached by one of the Emperor’s Grand Advisors who has a proposition for her. The current Emperor, Ryuuki Shi (different kanji, but…), wants nothing to do with royal duties and has been shirking his responsibilities. If Shuurei is willing to enter the imperial household and spend six months as the emperor’s consort teaching the emperor how to be a strong ruler, with Seiran going as her bodyguard, Advisor Sho will give Shuurei’s family a very large sum of money. Shuurei is desperate and agrees to the deal, realizing only later that she might be in over her head.saiunkoku_manga_artbook_0009-copy

However the arrangement is bittersweet. From the time when the country of Saiunkoku was struck by extreme poverty and hardship, Shuurei’s dream has been to become an official in the Imperial Court so she can help others. But there’s a catch – women are forbidden from taking the exams. So being in the Inner Court is a little like rubbing salt in a wound for Shuurei, but she is still determined to teach Ryuuki to be a good emperor. Ryuuki is of course attracted to Shuurei, but she is unbelievably sheltered and naive when it comes to the opposite sex, and she rebuffs his advances.

After Shuurei finishes her time with Ryuuki and leaves the Imperial Palace, Ryuuki decides that he will change the laws so that women are able to take the entrance exams. With the door to her dream now accessible for the first time in her life, Shuurei takes up the challenge.

There’s so much more I could say but don’t want to get into because I don’t want to spoil this amazing series for anyone, so all I can say is to GO READ IT and GO WATCH IT because it’s a one-of-a-kind series you won’t forget.

So, pros? Fantastic characters, tons of bishounen in a reverse harem, a unique story, and gorgeous artwork elevate this series above others for me. And as I’ve said before, as much as I hate the term “strong female character”, this series has several. Shuurei herself is a fantastic role model, for reasons I’d be happy to get into if anyone wants to have that discussion.

What elseseiran and shuurei? There’s romance but the series doesn’t revolve around it; in fact because of Shuurei’s aversion to men, what romance there is ranks a little lower on SaiMono’s scale of important factors, a nice change in an industry where many series are near carbon copies of the same damn thing because creators know that that’s what sells. And it’s a historical title, so there is little nudity or over-the-top innuendo, something I consider to be a breath of fresh air. Politics are front and center in SaiMono too.

I’d like to take a moment to comment on the depth of Saiunkoku. There are so many layers, so many hidden things and plays on words which are expertly woven together to create a detailed story. Names, character relationships, ulterior motives – ugh. I don’t even know how to put it into words because I don’t want to ruin it for anyone, but I’m honestly hard-pressed to think of a series which has the richness and complexity of Saiunkoku. There’s just so much to it; it’s not just some straightforward historical romance.

Cons? The series is extremely slow-paced. How slow? Both seasons of anime have 38 episodes. Each. Whew! So there’s lots of plot, but there’s also lots of filler. Plus towards the end of the second season I found the story got a little convoluted and farfetched, though overall I feel it still stands strong. In terms of the manga (since this is a manga review, not an anime review >>; ), only the first two or three story arcs are covered, enough to get the reader interested but then left wanting more.

If you’re reading or watching SaiMono for lots of romance, you might be disappointed. Don’t get me wrong there’s definitely romance in SaiMono, but it’s often subtle, and the obvious moments are infrequent. Plus you know, there’s the whole reverse harem factor to contend with if that’s not your thing.

Lastly as I already mentioned, the series is incomplete. If you finish the second season of the anime, you can see how it was left open for a continuation, but due to decreased popularity I don’t think we will ever see a third season, or more of the manga. o(?_?)o

My Score: 9/10
Do I Recommend This Title?: If you can tolerate slow-paced series, then YES, if only for the artwork and the characters. There are so many layers to Saiunkoku, much of which is not revealed until much later, and though the manga is incomplete I still feel like it’s a title worth reading. It’s like a beautiful onion – pretty to look at as a whole, but as you get further down through the layers it’s going to make you cry.

And if you ever want to talk about this series AT ALL, please feel free to ask me about it! I literally will never tire of talking about Saiunkoku Monogatari. (????)?*:???

[Manga Mondays] Otoyomegatari

BRIDESSTORY_2Title: Otoyomegatari (A Bride’s Story)
Author: Kaoru Mori (Story & Art)
Genres: Drama, Romance, Historical
Published: 2008 – Present (Ongoing)
Volumes: 7 (so far)
Japanese Publisher: Enterbrain – both Harta magazine (original run) & tankobon format
English Publisher: Yen Press
Available to Purchase in English?: Yes (Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Indigo)

I’m back this week to introduce an incredible title by the name of Otoyomegatari, known most commonly as A Bride’s Story in English. This manga is in my list of top three favourite titles, and I hope to convince anyone reading this why it’s worthy of such praise.

A Bride’s Story takes place in the late 19th century, in a Turkic Central Asia near the Caspian Sea. The series focuses on several nomadic or semi-nomadic tribes, but initially focuses on the arranged marriage of Amir and Karluk. Their union is unique in that Amir is twenty, but Karluk is eight years younger than she is; typically the bride is several years younger than her husband. They care for each other, but struggle to find ways to relate to each other because of the age gap between them. In addition, Amir comes from a tribe more nomadic than Karluk’s and is very outspoken and adventurous, whereas the women of Karluk’s family are usually more reserved. Amir also has skills like riding a horse and shooting a bow, things Karluk’s family find fascinating bebride's storycause their way of living doesn’t require their women to learn those skills.

The story begins as a quiet one, focusing on the family life of Karluk’s family’s tribe and their day-to-day activities, and because this is a series focused on women and women’s activities, much of the first volume or two is about things like making bread, creating clothes and textiles, and cooking meals. Then one day their peaceful existence is disturbed when some of Amir’s male relatives come to take her back to their tribe, and they will use force if they have to.

What’s a little unusual about this series is that after volume two, the story starts to branch off with other characters and their adventures. However while I’m only up to volume three myself, I’ve read that the series keeps circling back to Amir and Karluk to provides updates about their married life. I’m not normally a fan of series which do this (Kareshi to Kanojo no Jijou, or His & Her Circumstances in English, is the only other series offhand I can think of which uses this storytelling tactic), but I’ve enjoyed A Bride’s Story enough that I don’t feel like this will bother me once I get further into the series.

Wikipedia also has this series listed as being targeted towards a seinen (adolescent boy) demographic, and while there is a little nudity (though not gratuitous) and perhaps that is the reason for its use, the seinen label honestly surprised me a little. Reading this series didn’t give me a seinen vibe; if anything it struck me as a series that perhaps everyone could enjoy. So regardless of how it’s supposedly marketed, I feel that this series has a strong appeal to readers of all demographics regardless of their gender.

What elevates A Bride’s Story to perfection for me is the sheer amount of DETAIL which goes into each and every panel. I won’t spam your screen with images, but you caotoyomegatari-1016768n see how the author works here, and view some other examples from the manga here and here. A Bride’s Story even beats out my other favourite gorgeous series, Saiunkoku Monogatari, and that is very hard to do in my book.

Going back to the arranged marriage between Amir and Karluk, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t originally a bit of an ick factor in reading about a twenty year old woman marrying a twelve year old boy. I personally found that framing it in a historical context helped me be more accepting of the concept, because during this time period there were (and probably still are) cultures which practice ultimogeniture inheritance, which means that the youngest child is the one who gets everything, not the eldest. I suppose the author could have made Karluk a little older. but then perhaps the age gap might not have the same relevance that it does.

If you want to check an awesome article which takes a closer look at this series, and Amir as a character in particular, I recommend reading this (minor spoiler alert for later events in the series). I differ from the author’s opinion of Amir’s character (that she is too silent and never really displays much of an opinion on her circumstances), but otherwise agree with what she says, and the article’s author mentions a lot of the story’s cultural details which I haven’t covered here.

My Score: 10/10
Do I Recommend This Title?: YES! If only to read about a part of the world which gets little media attention in Western society. However I’d also encourage people to read it for the gorgeous artwork and the compelling story. It might seem boring, initially being about topics like arranged marriage, breadmaking and sewing, but I promise you it’s so much more.

Hundred – Episode 1 [Little Garden] [First Impression]

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Hundred is my second crack at an ecchi harem here on AAB, and compared to Saijaku Muhai no Bahamut from last season, I’m already far more impressed with this show than with the former.

Hundred opens with a flashback. A large creature called a Savage is attacking a town. The main character, Hayato Kisaragi, is holding an unnamed silver-haired person in his arms. When the creature attacks, they are thrown away from each other. Blood is everywhere. When Hayato wakes up, he remembers where he is: in a military-type airplane on his way to the academic city-ship, Little Garden. Little Garden appears to be a military school, where students are trained to be a type of soldier called a Slayer. People who resonate with magical stones called Hundreds (named for the many, many forms a Hundred can take) can train to become a Slayer, and their goal is to protect humanity by fighting Savages.

vlcsnap-00006Once Hayato lands and reaches the campus, he meets a young boy named Emile Crossfode, who recognizes him and is ecstatic to see him – but Hayato has never seen this person before. Except in, you know, his dream, but he hasn’t put two and two together yet. Emile introduces Hayato to a couple of his friends, and then their group makes their way to the opening ceremony.

At the ceremony, two girls who arrive late are expelled by Little Garden’s military “queen”, Claire Harvey. She has a no-nonsense stance on mistakes, for when in battle against a Savage, even a small mistake can get a Slayer killed. When Emile jumps to his feet to protest their expulsion, he is expelled too. Hayato takes a stand against this decision, and Claire makes him a deal: if he can beat her in a Hundred battle, she will reverse her decision.

After the opening ceremony, Emile takes the opportunity to introduce Hayato to her friend Charlotte Dimandius, the main technologist on Little Garden and the chief Hundred researcher, and her assistant Meimei. Who… is dressed like and behaves as a cat. Char gives Hayato his Hundred, and Emile takes it upon himself to help Hayato train for the upcoming battle. For you see, Hayato had never before used a Hundred when he applied to enter Little Garden, but he miraculously set a new high frequency record score.

Hayato’s Hundred is the Flying Swallow, a sword with a shield over his right arm and shoulder. Emile summons his Hundred, a winged model called Arms Shroud. Together they they train until the early evening. Afterwards Hayato finds a ton of messages on his phone and realizes he forgot to visit his younger sister Karen after the opening ceremony. He rushes off to go see his sister, leaving Emile to return to the dormitory alone.

Later that night after returning home from the hospital, Hayato accidently walks in on Emile getting changed in Hayato’s room post-shower. Emile freaks out, vlcsnap-00019but once he calms down he reveals they’re roommates. Surprise! My bet is we’re going to get lots of ecchi situations resulting from this arrangement, at least until Emile’s secret is revealed.

The next day is the big day. Claire and Hayato face off in an arena, with the other students watching from up in the bleachers. The duo launch their Hundreds and prepare for battle. Who will be the winner??

My thoughts: How would I describe Hundred? If Neon Genesis Evangelion met Final Fantasy VIII and they had a baby, Hundred would be that offspring. It’s a nice blend of sci-fi, mecha and comedy, with a little ecchi mixed in.

The animation is solid, though I’m not a fan of the opening theme song. (I’m sure this is unrelated, but given that I feel that Hundred has some similarities with FFVIII, I thought it was ironic that the closing theme song is called “Eyes on Me”, lulz.) But do you know what got my attention the most? The possibility that we might get a different kind of fanservice in addition to the regular naked-skin-and-big-breasts. Seriously, Hayato’s physique in his variable suit? Hot damn!

Emile is obviously not a male. There are several hints sprinkled throughout the episode, references that he is not the gender he claims to be. I’m curious to see how that revelation will be played out later in the season.

This was a good start to a new show, and if this kind of performance continues, I will be happy to cover Hundred.

Possibility of Watching: High
Possibility of Blogging: High

Endride – Episode 1 [Ride] [First Impression]

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Hmm… correct me if I’m wrong, but haven’t I been here before? Let me analyze the list.

  • The main character is into crystals (Check)
  • The main character has spiky brown hair (Check)
  • One of the female characters has a magical creature sidekick (Check)

This had better not be a Comet Lucifer ripoff, because we all know how that turned out. I’m a little hesitant to pick up this series after seeing so many smiliarities between the two shows, but am not so jaded that I won’t give it a try.

The premise of this show is that fifteen year old Shun Asanaga is one day transported to the land of Endra, where he meets sixteen year old Emilio, who is also a vlcsnap-00013prince. Emilio lives in the land of Endora, whereas Shun comes from the “Land Above,” aka the “surface”, aka Earth.

In the beginning of the episode, we see that Shun lives with his parents, but his father is a workaholic, forgetting even his own birthday many years. Shun has a love of crystals, an interest that could have been passed down from his mother, as she is a former archaeologist. Shun plans a birthday party for his father, but when he forgets to show up yet again, Shun keeps the promise he made to his mother to go retrieve his father from work. This would have been a fine plan if only he could keep his hands to himself, for it is in his father’s office that Shun discovers the crystal which transports him to Endora. Like a moth to a flame, Shun touches the portal and is sucked into it.

Shun is dropped into an underground prison. Once there, Shun accidently discovers that he can summon weapons from his chest, and he uses his Warp Relic to break Prince Emilio out of the prison King Delzaine put him in. Emilio helps Shun escape, but they run into a lion beast-like creature from the Zu Clan and are forced to fight it. Shun manages to once again bring out his Warp Relic, but being unsure of what to expect he is near useless in battle. This allows the lion creature to push them both back and knock them into the waters below. Prince Emilio saves them by towing them underwater into some nearby hidden sewers, and when they reach above ground again, they meet a friend of Emilio’s.

I’m not sure what to think. Shun both annoys and amuses me. Prince Emilio is so far very abrasive. Shun’s father is, quite frankly, an idiot. The music is tolerable, but the animation (especially environments) is very pretty. I was expecting a little more from Endride, ie it took like half the episode for the action to get going, but I’m thinking that might just be my high expectations.

I think it will be the usual three episode rule for me. I’m confident this can turn out to be a decent show, if it doesn’t follow in the same steps of Comet Lucifer.

Possibility of Watching: Moderate
Possibility of Blogging: Moderate